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Helena gallery opens exhibit with sacred Hindu and Buddhist deities

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This wood Buddha sculpture is on display at the Carroll Art Museum in Helena. Photo courtesy of the Carroll Art Museum.
This wood Buddha sculpture is on display at the Carroll College Art Gallery in Helena. Photo courtesy of the Carroll College Visual Arts Gallery.

Carroll College is a private Catholic school, but that doesn’t mean it’s not open to understanding other religions, even ones that come across as somewhat exotic to our Western sensibilities.

The director of the art program at Carroll, professor Ralph Esposito, said since he’s taken over the program at least 10 years ago, he’s made an active effort to broaden the horizons of his students and everyone who visits the Carroll College Visual Arts Gallery in Helena.

This week they opened a new exhibit running through March 6 that adopts that idea. It’s titled “Deities: The Sacred of the Hindu and Buddhist” and features a private collection of Tibetan Thangkas along with sculptures of gods and goddesses from India.

Esposito added that this exhibit wouldn’t have been possible without help from the Tibetan Children’s Education Foundation and Valerie Hellermann, the foundation’s project manager based out of Helena.

“Having artwork around that represents Christianity is pretty common, but I’ve been trying to get more of a broader world view represented here, which I figure is a good thing to do at a religious institution — support religions of all types as well as one connected religion,” Esposito said.

“I talked with (Hellermann) at length about this exhibit and she goes to India and Tibet frequently so we talked to her about the works she had in her house and the foundation and some work that the foundation purchased.  We asked if we could borrow it for the show and she agreed to talk about it, as well.”

Hellermann will give a lecture about the artwork on Friday, Feb. 6 at 7 p.m. It is free and open to the public. Light refreshments will be served.

The gallery will display information about each piece in the exhibit, as well, and Esposito said these pieces indeed may spark some conversations about religions and how they differ and how they’re alike.

Various sacred sculptures from Tibet and India are on display through March 6 in Helena.

“I know some professors that teach philosophy or theology will likely bring their classes to see the exhibition or they’ll have a class where they talk about it,” Espositio said. “Valerie knows a lot more about it than I do, but I like the work, I like the way it looks and I like the fact that it’s different and represents a lot of different thoughts and opinions in terms of religion.”

Espositio said whether the exhibit gets people talking about religions or not, at it’s core it is unique artwork that people in the area might not get the chance to see all that often.

“It’s beautiful stuff and I’m glad we can have it. It might provoke people, but it’s just good exposure and some people might ignore it, but I’m not concerned with that. I’m just trying to provide a venue for some different kinds of things that a college should provide,” he said.

The gallery is open from 9 a.m.-9 p.m. weekdays and is closed weekends and college holidays. For more information, visit the gallery’s website, and check out the Tibetan Children’s Education Foundation here.


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